Saturday, April 29, 2017

Stuffed Animal Saturday: Perennials: A Novel - Many Berman

Stuffed Animal Saturday is a meme that we post here at We Live and Breathe Books to showcase the book we're currently reading with one of our favorite stuffed animals and discuss our stuffed animal's opinion (well, it's really our opinion, but that's besides the point). We hope you enjoy our quirky feature as much as we enjoy writing it!

This Saturday, the CPK and I are reading Perennials: A Novel by Mandy Berman .

Blurb from Goodreads: 

The quintessential summer read: a sharp, poignant coming-of-age novel about the magic of camp and the enduring power of female friendship, for readers of Stephanie Danler, Anton DiSclafani, Jennifer Close, and Curtis Sittenfeld

At what point does childhood end and adulthood begin? Mandy Berman s evocative debut novel captures, through the lens of summer camp, a place that only appears to be untouched by the passing of time, both the thrills and pain of growing up.

Rachel Rivkin and Fiona Larkin used to treasure their summers together as campers at Camp Marigold. Now, reunited as counselors after their first year of college, their relationship is more complicated. Rebellious Rachel, a street-smart city kid raised by a single mother, has been losing patience with her best friend s insecurities; Fiona, the middle child of a not-so-perfect suburban family, envies Rachel s popularity with their campers and fellow counselors. For the first time, the two friends start keeping secrets from each other. Through them, as well as from the perspectives of their fellow counselors, campers, and families, we witness the tensions of the turbulent summer build to a tragic event, which forces Rachel and Fiona to confront their pasts and the adults they re becoming.

A seductive blast of nostalgia, a striking portrait of adolescent longing, and a tribute to both the complicated nature and the enduring power of female friendship, Perennials will speak to everyone who still remembers that bittersweet moment when innocence is lost forever.

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So far:

This book sort of has the feel of The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, which I loved. It is an interesting character study, which focuses on Rachel and Fiona, two people from very different circumstances, who wouldn't be friends had they not attended camp together. The early part of the book gives us a look into their last summer as campers. Then, the story jumps ahead six years, when the girls are back at Camp Marigold as counselors. I am already starting to see how their relationship has changed, and how both Rachel and Fiona have taken divergent paths. Berman is also spending quite a bit of time of some peripheral characters. I am not sure why she is, at this time, but I am interested enough to keep reading.

Are you and your stuffed animal 
reading anything interesting? 
Let us know in your own Stuffed Animal Saturday!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Review: One of Us is Lying - Karen M. McManus

One of Us is Lying
Karen M. McManus
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

"One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide."

This blurb from GoodReads really encapsulates the essence of this book into a nice, concise statement. 

When the four main characters are each found with a cell phone in their bag, they earn an afternoon detention. Oddly, the cell phones didn't belong to them, and while they are serving their time, one of the attendees, Simon, dies. It all appears to be a tragic accident, until the police begin investigating them for murder. The investigation uncovers some incriminating evidence. It seems Simon was planning to publish each of their darkest secrets under the guise of juicy gossip. This reveal turns them from witnesses into suspects.

This was such a great reading experience for me. The story pulled me in from page one, and I just wanted to keep reading and collecting clues. I did develop a hypothesis, which ended up being correct,  (*pats self on back*) but that's half the fun when I read a mystery. I have seen that this was pitched as "Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars" and I have to say, that is a great description for this book.

"'She's a princess and you're a jock,' he says. He thrusts his chin toward Bronwyn, then at Nate. 'And you're a brain. And you're a criminal. You're all walking teen-movie stereotypes."
Each of the four main characters do fall into one of those typical high school cliques, but as the story plays on, we find out that there is a lot more beneath the surface of each character. They were all quite layered and well constructed. They all had such depth, and I thought McManus did a great job developing them throughout the book. I really enjoyed getting to know each of the characters as they dealt with the investigation and their secrets being revealed.

I know having your deepest, darkest secrets unveiled publicly is not a positive thing, but the outcome for these characters was. Each of them was forced to admit the truth ,and face the consequences of the fallout once others learned of it. One character found her inner strength and independence, while another was able to feel more comfortable in his own skin. Two found love, while most of them found acceptance on some level. Some developed a reinforcement or renewal of family ties, but all of them experienced growth, and it was a positive growth. All four characters were a better version of themselves at the end of this book, and I always find that the mark of great YA story.

Another great outcome, was that the four bonded together. This group of disparate teens became "the Bayview Four", and they were there for each other. In their quest to clear their names, they found friendship and more.

And yes, there is a romance. *heart-eyes* Sorry, not sorry, but I always want a little romance. I don't care what kind of book I am reading, a little romance is always a good thing. This was a wonderful and meaningful romance, and by no means took away from the overall plot. It was well integrated, and a ship worth shipping. Seriously, at one point, about 63% through the story, the heroine goes on this rant about why she wants to try dating the hero, and it is the cutest, most adorable thing ever. I liked her already, but I loved her after that outburst.

Overall: A riveting mystery filled with twists and turns, which had me hooked from page one.

**I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the advanced copy of this book

The Breakfast Club was a defining movie for me. I love it!
Have you seen The Breakfast Club?
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Seeking Mansfield - Kate Watson

Seeking Mansfield
Kate Watson
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Retelling
Publisher: Flux
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Reading Challenges: #DebutAuthorChallenge, #ContRom2017

Seeking Mansfield is a modern retelling of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. I will admit it right now: I did not read Mansfield Park, but I did see the movie, and therefore, had an idea of the story going in. Watson did a fine job with this tale. There is this spirit of the original story, but it is also a story wholly her own.

Finley and her best friend, Oliver, were passing their time together. They were happy filling their days with homework on the roof, tours in Old Town, and movie marathons of terrible films. Then one day, they have new neighbors, and these new neighbors happen to teen movie stars, Harlen and Emma Crawford, who immediately shake up Oliver and Finley's norm.

The sad stuff first. Finley was taken in by her godfather after her father's death and her mother's inability to properly care for her. I will not reveal more of the details here, because I want you to get the full impact of what happened to Finley. Knowing this background made me really appreciate the growth Finley experienced.

There were so many couplings going on here. Initially, we knew that there were feelings brewing between Finley and Oliver. Once the Crawfords enter the picture, Emma showed an interest in Oliver, and Harlen took a liking to Finley. In-between all this, Juliet, Oliver's sister, attempted to ensnare Harlen even though she was dating Raleigh. Whew! So many romantic entanglements. I loved it!

Our heroine, Finley, has a love for the theatre that runs ocean deep. She had a vast knowledge of the theatre and its inner workings, but kept most of that to herself. Her talents are slowly revealed, and she begins to believe she can earn a place in the prestigious Mansfield Theatre Youth program. Finley was such an easy MC to root for. There was a lot brewing under the surface there. At first glance, I thought she was a little wallflower, who let people take advantage of her. I believe I yelled, "She is not your Cinderella!!!, " at one point. As the story progressed, Finley grew stronger. She began to believe in herself, and she began to rely on herself. As she started to see herself differently, so did others.

Finley, stop!!!

Oliver was quite the swoon worthy hero. He was there for Finley when she was at her lowest point, and he was very dedicated to encouraging her to go after everything her heart desired. He wanted her to realize her full potential and was just such a dedicated friend. I wish I had an Ollie in my life.

Emma and Harley were interesting. I did not immediately like either of them, but they grew on me. I especially grew to love Harlen. He was quite the charmer. There was tons of great banter between Harlen and Finley. She seemed quite a suitable foil for him, and it was fun to watch that relationship blossom.

This was a fine debut from Ms. Watson. Her writing was very pleasant and set an appropriate tone for the story. I easily flew through this story due to the good pacing, great characters, and easy nature of the writing. I look forward to reading more of Watson's work.

Overall: a smile-inducing story of healing and self actualization with a great love triangle and a peek into the world of live theatre.

**I would like to thank NetGalley and Flux for the advanced copy of this book

Do you like theatre?
Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday: Liberty: The Spy Who (Kind of) Liked Me - Andrea Portes

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Tessa at Wishful Endings that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I can't wait for Liberty: The Spy Who (Kind of) Liked Me by Andrea Portes.

Liberty: The Spy Who (Kind of) Liked Me
Andrea Portes
Series: n/a
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Waited on by: Sam

Andrea Portes is back with a fast-paced, super-fun spy novel, told in her signature snarky, voice-driven style.

What is a hero? Paige Nolan knows.

Edward Raynes, the young man who exposed America’s unconstitutional spying techniques, is a hero, even if half the dum-dums in the country think he’s a traitor. Or her parents, journalists who were captured by terrorists while telling stories of the endangered and oppressed. They were heroes, too. Were. . . or are—no one has ever told Paige if they’re still alive, or dead.

Not heroes? Anyone in the government who abandoned her parents, letting them rot somewhere halfway across the world. And certainly not Paige herself, who despite her fluency in five languages and mastery of several obscure martial arts (thanks, Mom!) could do nothing to save them.

Couldn’t, that is, until she’s approached by Madden Carter, an undercover operative who gives her a mission—fly to Russia, find Raynes, and discover what other government secrets he’s stockpiled. In exchange, he’ll reopen the case on her missing parents. She’s given a code name and a cover as a foreign exchange student.

Who is a hero? Not Paige Nolan, but maybe, just maybe, Liberty is.

I will not lie, the title totally caught me when I was perusing GoodReads. It said "fun" to me, and when I read the blurb, I knew I was right. There are also all these buzz words showing up in early reviews, which just make a read appealing to me: snarky, hilarious, silly, fun, caper. On top of that, it's a spy novel. I don't read a ton of spy novels, but they are always interesting with their gadgets and subterfuge.

I haven't read this book yet, but I am already rooting for Paige, and hoping she is successful with her mission.

What are you waiting on?
Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review: Avenged - Amy Tintera

Amy Tintera
Series: Ruined, #2
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Reading Challenges: #NGEW2017

Can we just get a round of applause for Tintera, as this book does not suffer not one iota from second book slump.

Avenged resumes the story with Emelina and the Ruined returning to Ruina. Em and Olivia must both adjust to being back as they develop a plan of how to restore their kingdom to its previous glory. Emelina hopes to rebuild, while Olivia is bent on revenge. Meanwhile, Cas is reeling from the death of his parents and the invasion of his own kingdom, but he also has to battle to keep his place on the throne since his own cousin is trying to usurp him. Both Cas and Em want peace, but will they be able to convince others that this is the right choice?

I reread my Ruined review, and found that all the things I loved in book 1, are still there in book 2, but there are also more things to love.

  • If you didn't love Emelina before, you are sure to love her now. She continues to be a strong and ardent leader, who is extremely dedicated to her people. There are a lot of compromises she makes or considers making in this book for the sake of her kingdom. I fully understand why she is willing to make these sacrifices, but my heart just can't let my brain lead on this one, and I found myself quite frustrated at times. 
  • Cas is still my favorite after this book. That man is so swoony. The way he laid all his cards on the table and was all in for a relationship with Em made my heart pitter patter. I like that he had some challenges, and that he had to reach deep inside and make some tough decisions. He actually grew a lot during this book, and I am eagerly awaiting what is next for him in book 3. 
  • This is such a Romeo & Juliet type love story, in that Cas and Em are from kingdoms that hate each other, but they still cannot resist their love. Even when they try, the universe continues to bring them back together.  It's kind of beautiful that they can see the person beyond the race, and this idea is woven throughout the story. The more the story unfolds, the more we learn that not everyone hates the ruined. We learn about all the people, who actually advocated for better treatment of the Ruined or who don't hold any preconceived opinions of them, but rather take them on a person by person basis. 
  • Tintera expanded this world for us. We traveled to the southern part of Lera, as well as Oslo and Ruina. Tintera did a great job revealing the new parts of this world, and made a few interesting choices as well (Oslo!). I had to do a double take, when I first saw what she introduced in Oslo, but I guess they needed some way to be able to hold their own against the Ruined. 
  • Several villains emerged, with Olivia and Jovita emerging as the biggest threats. Jovita is making her power play in a traditional way, while Olivia is just plain crazy. Seriously, I am worried about her, and I hope that Em will be able to handle her. 
  • We meet some new characters, while others play a larger role in the story. I really liked the addition of Violet, yet another fierce female, who becomes quite an important friend and confidant to Cas, and the expanded role of Iria. Yes, Iria fast emerged as someone I was very fond of, but mostly because of her entanglements. Another character who got a lot of page time was Aren. As one of the strongest Ruined, I knew he would serve an important purpose, but Tintera let him become so much more, and I am looking forward to see what she has in store for him in the next book. 
Overall: Another great adventure with augmented political drama, battles, and nefarious plots. This one has definitely left me wanting for the next book, because I know something HUGE is going to happen. 

**I would like to thank Edelweiss and the publisher for the advanced copy of this book

If you had an elemental based power, what would it be?
Let us know in the comments!